Victoria University workers push back all concessions with new deal

A group of spaced-out people in coats and masks listen to a man speaking from a pop-up booth with a USW logo on it. There are trees and parked cars in the background. Victoria University education workers in Toronto have ratified a new collective agreement that pushed back all concessions through strong solidarity amongst members.

Members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1998 approved the new deal by a majority vote. The deal was then approved by the employer, Victoria University, on April 7, 2022.

The 153 members of Local 1998 work in a wide range of important roles including administration and technology, housekeeping, janitorial and food services positions.

While wage benefits were constrained to a 1% increase by anti-worker Bill 124, the two-year contract makes improvements on bumping rights and uses language that prevents schedule conflicts during moves between departments. There are also improvements that prioritize USW casual members over the use of temporary worker agencies.

More gains were also won in the form of a commitment from the employer to bring in work-from-home guidelines, including options for compressed and flexible hours and other alternative work arrangements.

"I was so impressed that the solidarity from the membership and the perseverance of the bargaining committee enabled us to push back all the concessions and make gains for our members." said Colleen Burke, USW Local 1998 Staff Representative.

“In our recent round of collective bargaining with the Victoria University administration, the union succeeded in maximizing the monetary gains allowed under the provincial Conservatives’ oppressive Bill 124 and realized improvements in non-monetary provisions of the collective agreement. Equally worthy of attention is the fact that we beat back all of the employer’s proposed concessions,” said John Akenman, president of Local 1998.

“These education workers are a crucial part of their community. From housekeeping to tech positions, they are the backbone of what keeps higher education moving,” said Myles Sullivan, USW Director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada.

“Having post-secondary education employees in the Steelworkers family demonstrates the diversity of workers within our union,” said Sullivan, pointing out that the USW also represents employees at Queen’s University, Lakehead University and University of Guelph.

“I’m proud to see the solidarity demonstrated by Victoria University workers, who were able to come together and secure a fair deal for each other,” Sullivan said.

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